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Hillsborough safety certificate 'very out of date' at time of disaster, jury told

David Duckenfield arrives at Preston Crown Court Photo: PA Images

The safety certificate for the Hillsborough stadium was "very out of date" at the time of the 1989 disaster, the jury in the trial of match commander David Duckenfield has been told.

On Wednesday, the prosecution continued opening the trial of Duckenfield, 74, who denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans, and former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell, 69, who denies contravening a condition of the ground's safety certificate and a health and safety offence, at Preston Crown Court.

The court was shown the ground's safety certificate, issued in 1979, which included the capacity figures for different areas of the stadium.

But Richard Matthews QC, prosecuting, said the jury would hear from expert John Cutlack who estimated the capacity figure for the Leppings Lane terrace, where the fatal crush happened on April 15, 1989, should have been 5,426, rather than 7,200.

He said the capacity was overstated from the time it was first calculated, but would have changed because of alterations made to the ground since the certificate was issued - including radial fences to create pens in the terraces, the creation of a sterile area and the removal of crush barriers.

Mr Matthews said it was also Mr Cutlack's opinion that there should have been additional information about the separate pens in the safety certificate.

Mr Matthews said: "It's right that by 1989 and the day of the disaster there had already been a protracted process involving consideration of new conditions, or draft conditions, and recognition by all, well if not all by many, who were concerned with the safety certificate that it was very out of date.

"That it was very out of date by the day of the disaster is, I think, without contention.

"Few of those involved with the safety certificate appear to have performed their function diligently in this regard."

The court was shown video from the 1981 FA Cup semi-final, when police let Tottenham Hotspur supporters out through pitch perimeter gates after an incident of crushing on the Leppings Lane terrace.

Mr Matthews said the court would hear some evidence that during that incident police blocked off access to the terrace and stopped any more spectators from entering.

A court sketch of David Duckenfield and Graham Mackrell Credit: PA Images

Duckenfield, of Bournemouth, who wore a grey suit and purple shirt with spotted tie, sat in the well of the court for the third day of proceedings, alongside lawyers and co-defendant Mackrell.

Under the law at the time, he can not be charged with the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, as he died more than a year and a day after sustaining injuries in the crush at the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Mackrell, of Stocking Pelham in Hertfordshire, is charged with contravening a term or condition of the stadium's safety certificate, by failing to agree the methods of admission for the match, and failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety Act by not taking reasonable care in respect of arrangements for admission and the drawing up of contingency plans.

The trial continues